Two Wexford brothers threatened with eviction by Wexford County Council are fighting for the right to remain living in the family home where they grew up and where their late mother was a Council tenant for more than half a century.
Patrick Duffin (59), a former member of the Irish Army who served in the Lebanon, and his brother Michael (60), have been asked to vacate the three bedroomed house at 51 St. Aidan's Crescent by the local authority which is threatening court action to secure possession of the property.
Their parents Elizabeth and Alfred reared a family of seven children in the house and Elizabeth continued as the tenant until her death two years ago, paying rent to the Council for approximately 58 years.
Patrick said he travelled to England for work in 1986 but was back and forward to Wexford constantly over the past 30 years, arriving home permanently two years ago to help care for his mother in her final illness.
'My mother said to me that there would always be a place here for me', said Patrick.
Elizabeth suffered a stroke in July 2016 and Patrick said he returned in August of that year to help look after her up to the time she passed away in November 2016.
He has been paying rent through the post office using his late mother's rent card but does not know if it is being accepted by the Council.
In March of last year, he received a letter from the County Council demanding repossession. He was later informed by the local authority that if he doesn't give up the house, an application will be made to Wexford District Court under the Housing Act to authorise a sheriff to take possession of the property.
'I spoke to a person in the Council and I was told that because it's a three bedroom house, we're not eligible to live here because there's only two of us,' said Patrick, pointing out that both he and his brother Michael have health problems. He said Michael has been living in the family home for over two years, also since returning from England.
'My mother paid rent on the house for 58 years so you would think a member of the family would be entitled to live here,' said Patrick.
'Instead, a person from the Council advised me and my other to go to Ozanam House (hostel for homeless men) for an assessment. But as far as I'm aware, that hostel is overcrowded,'
'My mother never had any problems in 58 years. I left and my flat in England to come home here when she got sick.'
St. Aidan's Crescent resident Bernard Furlong, a neighbour of the Duffins, said: 'Not one person in the area has a bad word to say about them. They are the best neighbours you could have. Patrick was out in the heavy snow during the winter helping older people in the area. The whole street is supporting them. No-one wants them to move out. Everyone here was reared up together. They're talking about homelessness in the town and now the Council wants to make two people homeless.'
'The Council wants to put them out for the sake of a small box room. If there is any justice, they wouldn't be put out of the house.'
Patrick said he feels 'terrible' about the prospect of eviction. 'I feel dead inside. It's hard enough losing your mother without losing your home as well and the Council telling you they want to put you out on the street,' he said.
Patrick and Michael's sister Angela said: 'I think it's awful. Patrick gave up his job to come home and look after our mother. You can't help but question the Council's policy. For them to be welcoming new tenants in through the front door and at the same time, throwing the sitting tenants out the back door. My mother always said there would be a place for them to come home to.'
A spokesman for Wexford County Council said it is policy not to comment on individual cases to protect the privacy of customers but pointed out that the local authority will not direct tenants to leave their home simply because the number of bedrooms in that property becomes greater than the need of the tenants.
The spokesman provided an extract from the Council's Allocation Scheme dealing with the issue of tenancy succession as follows: 'Where a tenant dies or leaves a dwelling, a member of the tenant's family, being over the age of 18, who is in need of accommodation will be entitled to succeed to the tenancy (where there is no remaining joint tenant) provided that Wexford County Council is satisfied that such member was bona fide ordinarily resident in the dwelling with the deceased or departed tenant prior to and up to the time of death or departure.'
'Other than in exceptional circumstances the minimum period of residency required will be twelve months and have been declared for rent purposes for at least 12 months.'
'This entitlement will not apply where Wexford County Council is satisfied that the applicant for succession deliberately took up occupation in the dwelling for the sole or principal purpose of obtaining the tenancy in these circumstances. Wexford County Council will make whatever enquiries are necessary to verify any particulars furnished in support of an application for succession including reference to rent assessment forms or other particulars submitted by the previous tenant.'